Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Cyrano de Bergerac


In 1990 Gérard Depardieu made a damn good version of this in the original French, and I sure wish I understood French. But I don’t, so the next best thing is the Brian Hooker translation. Jose Ferrer won a Tony in this role, and then went on to win the Oscar in this film. How one translates a play written in French, in a formal mode known as an Alexandrine, and preserve the beauty of the original and make it sing in English, is frankly beyond me. But this play shines through its use of language. The character of Cyrano strides through it as a tragic yet unbowed lover of poetry and enemy of all things false. If only that shallow Roxane had recognized what strength, love, and devotion stood before her … I love this movie, have watched it a dozen times, each time delighted at the brilliant word play.

I’m ashamed to admit that it wasn’t until recently that I learned that Cyrano was a real person. I had always assumed he was fiction. He lived from 1619 to 1655, and he really was all the things he is in the play. He did have an enormous honker, but it wasn’t big enough for a bird to perch on, as is traditional for the actor in the play. He wrote poetry, fought duels, and possibly actually died from his wounds from a botched assassination attempt. The tragic love story is the invention of Edmond Rostand. But Cyrano really was an early science fiction writer, describing a trip to the Moon, and several ingenious ways of getting there. Strapping bottles of dew to his body so that he rose into the morning air probably wouldn’t have worked, but his next attempt involved rockets!